As gas prices spike above $4 per gallon, a Rockland lawmaker wants the county to give local motorists a break at the pumps.
County Legislature member Ed Day, R-New City, has proposed Rockland put into place a limit on sales taxes collected by the county on gasoline sales. The proposal would base the county’s portion of the tax on a price of $2 per gallon.
The proposal calls for Rockland to use existing power to change the taxes collected on gasoline. Day estimates the change could save local motorists about 9 cents per gallon. However, the change would take at least 90 days to implement, Day said.
“Our residents are hurting and we need to give them a break where ever we can,” said Day, who contends the change would help Rockland County gas stations be a little more competitive with their counterparts just over the New Jersey border, where gas prices can be 30 cents per gallon cheaper — or more — because of lower taxes.
“We are losing tons of business to New Jersey,” said Day. “There are lines of cars to buy gasoline at New Jersey gas stations just over the border and most of those cars have New York plates. We have an opportunity to save our residents a couple of bucks on a fill up here in Rockland.”
With authorization from the state, Rockland in 2006 did cap sales tax collection at $2 per gallon. However, the measure had a “sunset” clause that removed the cap at the end of 2007. That allowed Rockland to budget for an additional $1.8 million in income, Day said.
"With prices now over the $4 per gallon level, consumers in all walks of life are getting slammed, and our tax policies are driving even more Rocklanders to New Jersey,” Day said. “My survey of many gas stations showed a 50 percent and more downturn in gasoline sales, clearly negating any projection of additional sales tax revenue. With a ready, cheaper market just a few miles away, the assumption that a higher rate of taxation will automatically generate more revenue is flawed from both an economic and market perspective. The bottom line is that we do not collect any sales tax on any item that is sold in New Jersey. We need to make every effort to keep our consumers right here in Rockland.”
Ron Levine, communications director for Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef, said the impact on the county budget from Day’s gas tax proposal is unclear.
“Has Legislator Day ascertained the impact of his proposed sales taxes reduction on county revenues? His press release does not provide that information,” Levine said. “We’d like to carefully review the provisions and
research that are a part of his proposed legislation.”
Levine said Vanderhoef welcomes any constructive suggestions pertaining to ways of improving the county’s fiscal health. However, he said Day’s position on tax revenue for the county has been inconsistent.
“It is ironic that Legislator Day issued a press statement calling for a reduction in the gasoline sales tax several months after issuing a press advisory criticizing the Executive Branch for overestimating sales tax, vehemently noting at the time that the ‘overestimation of sales taxes’ resulted in a deficit in general fund,” Levine said.